Royals send Chapman to Rangers for 2 players

July 1st, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals kicked off the Trade Deadline season by sending power reliever to the Rangers on Friday afternoon.

In return, the Royals acquired lefty pitcher -- who has appeared out of the Rangers' bullpen this season but is viewed as a starter -- and Dominican Summer League outfielder Roni Cabrera.

Ragans, 25, has been added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A, where he’ll continue to get stretched out as a starter and get ready for his first opportunity in Kansas City, which will likely come soon. Cabrera has been assigned to the Royals’ Dominican Summer League team.

“There was a lot of interest in Chapman, and Texas seemed to be the most aggressive team in pursuit of his talent,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “We got one guy that’s pitched in the Major Leagues and who we think can be a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues, and we got one that’s in the DSL, who’s a toolsy player and our scouts and [research and development] department say has upside at 17 years old.

“We accomplished what we set out to do.”

Ragans, a 6-foot-4 lefty, was the Rangers’ first-round Draft pick in 2016 and underwent two Tommy John surgeries before making his debut in 2022. He has a career 3.64 ERA in the Minors and made 17 appearances out of the Texas bullpen this season, posting a 5.92 ERA.

In three starts for Triple-A since he was optioned on June 13, Ragans had a 2.79 ERA.

Ragans has a live fastball that has seen an uptick in velocity this season, hitting 94-98 mph. His breaking ball is plus, and his changeup has the potential to be above average. Ragans has strikeout stuff, posting a 38.5 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A, although he also had a 15.4 percent walk rate there, too.

“It’s a three-pitch mix with power, so that’s exciting,” Picollo said. “His walk rates, I think, are going to regress a little bit. But there’s power to his fastball and that’s exciting to us.”

Cabrera signed with the Rangers out of the Dominican in 2022. In 54 at-bats for the Rangers' DSL team, Cabrera has a 1.075 OPS with one homer and 10 RBIs.

“You look at some data on a 17-year-old, the batted ball data is impressive,” Picollo said. “He’s an upside player, and it’s almost like adding someone to your Draft class, which is a couple weeks away. We got another young player that we think has some ceiling, lot of projection.”

The Royals signed Chapman to a one-year, $3.75 million contract this offseason with the understanding that if he got back to his dominant self, he could be their biggest trade chip this summer. That has been the case, as the 35-year-old posted a 2.45 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. The Royals wanted to move quickly in a deal for him, having talked with several teams over the last month. Chapman will slot into a Rangers bullpen looking for help as they race toward the postseason.

“He looks like he did five to seven years ago,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “Complete credit to him and the people he worked with all winter to revamp his delivery, and to Brian [Sweeney] and the pitching guys here to continue that work and build that confidence. The way he carried himself could not have been better.

“We thank him for that and wish him the best of luck. And I’m glad we’re done playing the Rangers.”

Trading Chapman was the Royals’ priority, but it will not be the only move they make with a month to go until the Aug. 1 Deadline. It’s becoming increasingly likely they trade closer Scott Barlow, who still has a year of control left. Sources told that the Rangers were interested in acquiring Barlow, too, and the two teams could still continue those negotiations.

Teams have also asked about Taylor Clarke and Carlos Hernández, per sources -- and those two will get ample opportunity now to pitch in higher-leverage situations with Chapman gone.

Picollo said there is no player truly off the table, although it’s hard to envision a trade for one of the Royals’ young hitters this summer. But teams could show interest in players like utility infielder Nicky Lopez and outfielder Edward Olivares.

“Now that you get one out of the way, you start figuring out what the next ones are,” Picollo said. “We’re open to whatever may come our way, but we have a month to work on it, and that’s plenty of time.”